Pepper Spraying Cop Lt. John Pike | oliver's blogpost @ Memefest
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Pepper Spraying Cop Lt. John Pike
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Few days ago, students in solidarity with the worldwide Occupy movement peacefully protested at University California Davis. What happened became news around the world. It showed the nature of a big part of the corporate University systen through the naked violence that was employed that very day on campus. It showed how far a University system can go to preserve it's corporate status quo. It showed how far this "educational" places are away from being educational. I had to look at the video several times to actually believe what I saw.

A few days later images with the cop that had pepper sprayed peaceful students in the face appeared on the internet and a new web site project dedicated to the cop went online.

Before browsing through the images have a look at the video above.
Here you can also get more context and sigh a petition against the head of UC Davis, who ordered the police in the first place.

Being an educator and working at a University my self I feel it is my and our responsibility to do whatever we can to preserve Universities as open, educational, dialogic, free and democratic spaces! It is up to all of us educators, researchers, students, administrators (!!) to make this our biggest priority in the future. If this will not be possible we will have to think more about alternatives. Without true educational spaces there is no future.

Memefest works for ten years as a alternative university. We have always also collaborated with established, formal Universities around the world. We have been able to change and influence quite a few things for the better, and we were able to learn a lot from fantastic people within Universities. But we need to do much more.

I also believe that there is a lesson to learn. I am worried that I was surprised and shocked when I saw the video. I should have known better.

Going back to the images circulating and being collected and published on the "pepper spraying cop" tumblr blog: iam interested on how do you read them. A critique? A joke? Art? Image activism? Virus? Does this have an effect and if yes, what is the effect of this...??


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11 years, 2 months ago

The Tumblr and associated images seem to help emphasise the pure absurdity of the cop's heavy handed treatment that was without justification. While humour is often used to 'disarm' I think in this case, it only strengthens the cause, and encourages participation by other image makers. It would be nice to see the original video front and center on the Tumblr as these 'mash-up' images without context have hardly any impact.

And that is always seems to be a problem with mass image blogging... context.

11 years, 2 months ago

or could we call that a political "meme" ?

11 years, 2 months ago

Yes, I think so. However without context that is all it becomes, rather than being linked with the occupation (which is why it came to being in the first place).

8 years, 5 months ago

I saw the video/s and researched more in-depth about this incident around when it happened or very close soon after. I was searching for police brutality information and this video incident came up. But I did not find or know about the “Pepper Spraying Cop images” until now!

My thoughts of the Pepper Spraying Cop images are:
Collaborative grouping
Creative justice of shame and awareness
Satire images but also sadistic images
Power of the Internet community both responsible and irresponsible qualities

Confusing differences between the professional and the amateur image-makers because of the copy and paste method of the cop. Re-creating the cop to suit the theme like the Pokémon image can be seen as the professional image-maker? And copy and pasting the cop into the fishing boat jaws image can be seen as the amateur image-maker? The context potentially overrides the importance of image quality, so professional and amateur image-makers become equal. Perhaps the high quality images do better justice and the low quality images do not give much justice, or equal justice? Question of the ethics of public justice. In this circumstance participation of image making is of greater value than perfection or commercial perfection of the final image.

Luke Robertson described context for this in an accurate way. The university protest unnecessary pepper spraying context is important for the Pepper Spraying Cop images to reap full impact.

But I think there is a big picture here, which is the police brutality context. Pepper Spraying Cop images are not just related to this one incident. The images can critique on more police brutality situations as well (indirectly), but an open mind and/or knowledgeable mind is required to understand why. The exact image of the cop does ground it to the university incident (directly) if you already know about it. But overall it is an image of a cop with pepper spray.

The potential problem is if people find the Pepper Spraying Cop images funny which is a sadistic quality due to the images purpose. (What are the images true purpose?) However because of the relatively intentional fake image appearances/qualities it is more satire material. The satire removes the sadistic? But it strongly depends on the individual’s perception of satire and sadistic images. However the blur between satire and sadistic is very close together for the Pepper Spraying Cop images.

To the very most extreme conclusion the method of Pepper Spraying Cop images created active thoughts of violence in every participant in an effort to create public justice. Using violence to fight violence is a bad method as history can tell us all to often about this…





Oliver Vodeb






I am a member of Memefest communication/art/theory Kolektiv, and founder, curator and editor of Memefest Festival of Socially Responsive Communication and Art. Iam also facilitator of Memefest online social network.

I am an Academic at RMIT University, Melbourne. I teach and research mostly in the field of communication design. I approach design/communication from a critical inter/ extradisciplinary perspective and I investigate theoretical, strategic, conceptual and "hands on" practice.

I enjoy working in many different media including visual and text.

Books I have published :

This was my studio in Slovenia (2004-2012):

CV (sort of):

You can read some of my texts here:

I have joined the Memfest community becasue i am interested in

I have been here from the very beginning of Memefest. I am interested in communication/design for social and environmental change.
I name such communication socially responsive communication.

Broadly speaking I am interested in visual communication, photography, sociological aspects of communication, design and media.

Iam interested in institutionalised forms of communication like for example communication done by design/communication studios and advertising agencies as well as non institutionalised forms of communication like tactical media or broader aspects of media activism.

In a slightly more academic language:

I am interested in how critical social theory can illuminate the complex processes of production, distribution and reception of public (visual) communication in order to generate public communication as a responsible social, political, economic and cultural practice.

I am particularly interested in relations between concepts of response-ability and communication effectiveness, and the social construction of design and other forms of pubic communication as profession, practice and praxis within academia, the market environments and non-institutionalised communities.


was studiing at Faculty for social sciences University of Ljubljana


PhD in sociology of communication and design

Working place

RMIT University, School of Design, Master of Communication Design

Music I like

Flamming Lips, Pixies, The Black Crowes, Demeter, Porno for Pyros, Ry Cooder, Junior Kimbrough, Townes van Zandt, T-model Ford, The Dirty Three, Bonnie Prince Billy, Primus, Faith no More, Bob Dylan, RHCP, Alice Donut, Faith no more, Mark Lanegan, Reigning Sound, Total Control;

Books I like

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, A Confederacy of Dunces, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, PanikHerz...;

Films I like

The man who wasn't there, No country for old man, Genova, Zidane a 21st century portrait, There will be blood, Il Postino, Festen, Straight Story, Wild at heart, White Ribbon, Dog tooth;

Communication projects I like

I like stuff we did at Poper studio. I like posters from Inkahoots. I like the zine project 23/56 from Kevin. I like many things that were submitted to Memefest, I like stuff from Cactusnetwork, I like the work of Image-shift.

Websites I like,,,,,,,,,,,,

People I like

My dear family and my wonderful friends.